I reached out to Marcus Coleman, acting director of the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, for his take on how churches can best prepare now. He offered these four essential pieces of advice for building a culture of preparedness:
1. Get connected with your local first responders and emergency management agency. Local emergency managers can share information about potential risks for your area, including whether your church is in a flood zone. First responders can be helpful in helping you think through creating an emergency operations plan. You can also visit www.fema.gov/faith-resources to get started.
2. Document and insure your property. Not all insurance policies are the same. Coverage amounts, deductibles, and payment caps can vary significantly. Consult with your insurance professional to be sure your policy is right for you. We encourage everyone to document and insure your property. In this webinar recording, FEMA and the SBA discuss potential sources on financial assistance for non-profits and houses of worship, including an update on the recent FEMA policy change.
3. Get trained. Use free resources designed for faith leaders to prepare for natural and man-made emergencies—including active shooter incidents. Training includes “You Are The Help Until Help Arrives” and Community Emergency Response Team training.
4. Get organized. FEMA andDHS have developed a suite of resources to help your organization get organized for man-mad and natural disasters. Visit www.fema.gov/faith-resources to learn more.
For more on how churches can work together with FEMA, see our interview with former FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate.
Dr. Jamie D. Aten is a disaster psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College in Illinois. HDI recently launched a new MA in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College Graduate School. His latest books include the Disaster Ministry Handbook and Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma. You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @drjamieaten or visit his website.
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